About the WHOI Marine Mammal Center
The Marine Mammal Center conducts basic research, using cutting-edge technology to solve major scientific and conservation challenges. Its collaborative group of scientists and engineers integrate diverse approaches and methods to understanding marine mammals and the different ways humans may influence their health, populations, and ecosystems.
WHOI has been a pioneer in marine mammal research since WHOI researchers founded the field of marine mammal bioacoustics in the late 1940s. Researchers at WHOI have been experts in developing new technologies to make many discoveries about how marine mammals have specialized in using sound to communicate, to feed, and to orient in the ocean.
Working in world-class facilities, collaborating with international partners, and using novel new technologies, scientists at the Center are pursuing new research on:
- Marine animal health and survival
- Disease transmission between humans and marine animals
- Decreased threat of ship collision and fishing gear entanglement
- Reduced impacts on mammals from sonar, shipping, and industrial activities at sea
- Impacts of climate change on marine populations
- Effects of behavioral and physiological disturbances on populations
- Whale prey mapping methods
- Deep diving physiology
- Non-invasive neurobiological measurements in marine mammals
As fewer marine mammals are hunted intentionally by humans, conservation focus has switched to the animals killed by accident (for example, in fishing gear) and to degradation of their habitats. These threats are global; they caused the extinction of the Chinese River dolphin in 2007 and continue to threaten right whales in New England. There are growing demands to bring together scientific expertise, resources and technology innovation to address the effects of human activities on marine mammals and the ecosystems on which they depend.
A number of current research programs are aimed directly at conservation. The Right Whale Initiative, for example, is a multi-year project, funded through the Ocean Life Institute in collaboration with the New England Aquarium, supports scientific research that has direct application to right whale conservation issues. Among the many advances born from this initiative are better tags that allow researchers to follow whales and record behavior, and robotic systems that can alert passing ships of the presence of whales and thus help avoid deadly collisions.
In addition, the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography provides excellent training for the next generation of researchers, and the Center enhances opportunities for conservation-related education.